Wednesday, June 15

Being grounded. Dealing with priorities. And itching to get on the road…

This has been a tough spring season. Hardly any LSD riding to date. I don’t count riding to school, which takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour plus depending on my starting point. I’m talking about doing 500 or 600 miles on a warm Saturday and perhaps another 500 plus on Sunday. Long weekend rides have taken a back seat to priorities.
A friend of more than 30 years died a few weeks ago. For the past year I’ve visited her several times a week. It has not been easy on multiple levels. But it’s the least one can do for a friend. It’s also been a challenging teaching quarter because my two classes were filled over the brim. It made returning submitted work in a timely fashion pretty dang taxing. But at 11:59 June 14th the quarter officially ended. I shall miss my students but not the struggle to keep my head above water.

(Annual b-day ride with Dave)

Add iffy weather as another reason I’ve not done any LSD rides. Ordinarily the weather does not phase me much. The chancy weather helped me rationalize being grounded more often than not. But when such weather finally turns consistently sweet, it makes longing for two wheels that much more pressing on the spirit. Priorities. I don’t regret spending time with my friend. It made me realize again how I now have fewer years ahead of me than I have behind me. And, she was about 12 years younger than I am! Sometimes, I just sat there while she slept. I gave a tribute at her funeral. Those moments spent with her over the past year prepared me for saying goodbye. We make time for that which is important to us.

While there is some truth to the idea that how old we are has less to do with the number than how we feel, let’s be real. I will not be swinging my leg over a sport turning bike at 83. At that age, I might have to consider a low seat cruiser.

Now, that school is effectively over, my head is filled with ideas for glorious solo adventures with Jesse Owens II (my motorcycle). I yearn for being in a position to take to the road come every mid-June and not returning home until mid-September. It is a dream and a goal that must wait until next year. This summer is taken over—or so it feels—with some necessary writing projects that must be completed before September draws to a close. I’ve come up with hundreds of reasons to avoid the task but avoidance only prolongs the inevitable; besides, I’ve run out of excuses. I have friends who have volunteered to provide quiet space with zero distractions. How can I refuse? Thus, my rides will occur mainly on weekends. One can cover a lot of ground on weekends so, I’ll not complain. I am reminded of my early morning rides, years ago, to Indy for lunch at Shapiro’s Deli and then turning around to return home before dark. Or my visits to St. Louis and always getting home too late for comfort. I can remember a few weekends that totaled 2,000 to nearly 3,000 miles of two day riding. So, I should be able to puts some miles end even if I lack a big destination. I have factored in an Iron Butt ride before the season closes—and it will be official. I’ve done two iron butt rides, both were meant to be official. However, I never turned in the paper work. I wonder if there’s a statute of limitation on that. Hmmm….(Note to self: check IBA rules). While there won’t be any cross country trips, I enjoy the many mini trips. Alas, my winter dreams of a summer solo ride to Nova Scotia must remain a dream for the future.

In addition to modest riding goals this summer, I am re-committing myself to actually publishing the blogs that I pen. I have a backlog that can only be explained as negligence. I was going to say “being busy” could explain it but really, that’s not completely honest. Yes, I’ve been crazy busy. But so what. Lots of folks are busy. I do a bunch of stuff I detest doing but I have to do it. Why am I not doing what I want to do and enjoy doing? Riding and blogging about it is fun, freeing, and the biggest, most natural stress buster that I’ve ever experienced?

(Farewell, F800ST)

The itch to get on the road, beyond normal riding, is severe. I’m loving the GT more and more. I have let go of the ST. I heard it has a great home. The GT is all that the ST was missing for me. When I stroll by the GT, I can hear its engine seductively rumble, calling me…and my leg involuntarily twitches a little, hoping for a good swing over the saddle.

Wednesday, September 30

It only needs to make sense to me…right?

As long as you're not hurting anyone or violating some universally Bahá'í House of Worship Wilmette, ILrecognized ethical standards and the law, or  jeopardizing your bread and butter, the strange (by other people's standards) things you're accused of doing don't have to make sense to anyone but you! I seem to attract people (and family/friends) who feel the need to share motorcycle horror stories with me. Complete strangers come up to me and say some variant of the following: “I knew a guy who rode motorcycles for years and one day was killed just going to the store—so you could get really hurt or killed—it's dangerous out there.” Or, “I have a friend whose has been riding for 30 years and he finally gave it up because he was having close calls and too many of his friends were getting killed.” Why am I subject to this? I usually stand there, listen politely. I show with little or no affect. I don’t know how to look more disinterested. I refuse to engage the unsolicited advice beyond saying, “Thank you for sharing that.” But in my head I'm really saying, “I am sorry that you know people who have been killed on a motorcycle and that's why you want me to find another hobby. When people are involved in car accidents do you tell them to stop driving, or hit by cars as pedestrians, do you tell them to stop walking and to find another hobby? I bet not.  I know you mean well but you are not being helpful. I find you annoying.” Of course, I never say this. RestStop1
So, today I have at least three things pressing on my mind that prompted this little screed. Read it in good humor--but I'm serious about every word!
Screed #1: Here is my response to all those who feel an urgent need to tell me, “you shouldn't ride alone. It's dangerous.” Breathing is dangerous too but I do it. I ride solo. I prefer it. I ride to be alone. I know the risks. I accept the risks. Riding with someone, anyone, on a regular basis would cause me to quit riding. I see no fun in riding with others. I know lots of people have tons of fun riding with others. I think that's just great. For them. It's not for me. When I ride it’s “all about me and the ride.” If that sounds “selfish,” so be it. I don't want to negotiate anything. Staying safe on the road is as much negotiating as I care to do. No, I don't need “the husband” or anyone to keep me safe. Yes, there are people out there who might want to assault me because I am a woman, alone, and a host of other attributes a nut case can use as an excuse to do me harm. I can't worry about that. According to statistics, I have more to fear from family members and friends than I do from strangers. So, family/friends I am on guard around all of you.
Annual b-day ride w/Dave
Actually, I can hide at home, rarely venturing out, and a stray bullet can come through the window and kill me. Thus, staying at home can be deadly! I can't and I won't live being afraid to come and go as I please. The focus, concentration, and the unadulterated fun of riding, for me, is disrupted when I have ridden with others. I am thinking, worrying, and negotiating with someone about when, where, and what the plans are. My bladder has a mind of its own and, like me on two wheels, does not play well with others. So, well-intentioned family/friends, stop it. You're wasting your time and you should know that by now. If I'm killed out there, you have my permission to say, “I told her so.” Now, won't that make you feel better knowing you were right? (Disclaimer: to all those I have had occasion to ride with, it has been fun because it has been so rare that I can enjoy it knowing that it will probably never be repeated).
Screed#2: I happily ride to Wisconsin to get the warranty work done on my Beemer rather than taking it to the “local” dealership. I bought it from a BMW dealer 25 minutes and less than 20 miles from my residence. It's the second bike purchased from the nearby dealership—I really like the sale manager and would not hesitate to purchase another bike from him. However, I will not ever get warranty work done there (well, I shouldn't say “not ever,” but it will be a hot day in Chicago in February before I do!).  Therefore, I ride over 100 miles—one way--and nearly 2 hours in bad traffic (and the traffic from Chicago to Wisconsin is always bad) to get excellent service.
 Milwaukee County War Memorial MuseumBTW, this dealership has free pick up and delivery from Chicago! I ride there instead because it is a great time to get some riding in. Negotiating the traffic, I believe, sharpens my riding and skills. Riding in hectic traffic is like riding in the rain. Some riders try to avoid riding in the rain. If you're on the road, you will inevitably encounter rain at some point. Granted, it's not an ideal riding situation but the only way to learn to ride in the rain, is to ride in the rain. I live where traffic is robust; therefore, it doesn't freak me out because I've learned to ride in it. It's a challenge and risk I accept. So, well-meaning family/friends, it's either Milwaukee or Iowa City for warranty work. And, while I like the option of the free pick up and delivery, I don't plan to use it. Now, for all my other shop needs and accessories I go to Motoworks Chicago, best shop in Chicago hands down!
North Point LighthouseAs an aside, my day in Wisconsin was filled with great weather, sites and a super lunch at Beans & Barley. Took in some sites along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan. And, at 6:45 pm while heading back to Chicago, I watched my five month old baby turned 7000 miles old.
Screed#3 I am not yet an official card carrying member of the Iron Butt Association but I have done two Saddle Sores (1000 miles in less than 24 hours) that remain unofficial. And, as soon as I can find where I've filed the paperwork, I'm submitting both rides for certification. I hope there is no statute of limitation as I did both some years ago. In any case, another one is in the plans. I enjoy long distance riding mmoart4because it is mind cleansing. I know this doesn't make sense to certain family/friends. I don't seek or expect your approval. For some motorcyclist these Iron Butt rides hold no appeal. That's okay. The Japanese have a saying similar to our “different strokes for different folks,” and it's じゅうにん、といろ(Juu-nin to iro), which means ten men, ten tastes. We’re all different. Again, it doesn't hurt anyone that I get up and ride to Indianapolis or down to St. Louis and come home the same day.  My Saddle Sore #1 was from Chicago to Waverly, Nebraska and back. Saddle Sore #2 was a straight shot to Golden, Colorado. My return trip was leisurely. 
I have no habits or addictions that I spend money on—if you don't count books, fountain pens, mmoart2Leuchttrum 1917 notebooks, motorcycle wear, and farkles for my bike. I'm kind to people and animals. Taking long day trips is a minor indulgence with huge dividends. I'm always happier when I return. So let me be. BTW, if you're really really worried about these long distance day trips why haven't you come forward demanding that I take your money and get a hotel room on your dime? Uh? Not that I would accept the offer. I'm just saying...
Am I the only one? Are there things your well-meaning family/friends/strangers don't get about your motorcycling fervor?

Saturday, September 12

On the kindness of strangers…

One week ago, I arrived home safe and sound. Enough time to reflect on the trip but not nearly enough time to thoroughly process all the experiences, and people I met along the way. I put nearly 6000 miles on Jesse Owens II. It’s now ready for its second service._DSC7663ed

This is a quick note of thanks and appreciation for the kindness of strangers who helped restore my faith in humankind and who made the trip worry-free.

First, a thanks to all the enthusiastic strangers traveling in the opposite direction who took the time to wave clear across the interstate, highway or just across a neighborhood street. Too often I missed returning a wave because I simply wasn’t thinking about it or it had zipped passed me too quickly. Thanks.

Somewhere beyond a 1000 miles the threading on one my Sidi On Road Gore Tex boot ripped. When I arrived in Encinitas, CA, a dear friend took me to a shoe repair.boots2 I don’t know if it was chatting in Spanish with the proprietor that did it, but he charged me $20—a figure I know was a significant underpayment. He sewed the boot and returned them to me with a shine that would pass any Army’s inspection.

Thanks goes to David Brown’s Sport Center in Amarillo, TX. On a Rt. 66 jaunt, one of the fancy little Denali lights that I love broke from its housing. After stopping for gas, I noticed the light precariously dangling near the ground. The silver duct tape I brought along looked unsightly; it would advertise--rather loudly--a flaw in my new bike. Bought some black duct tape that concealed the damage until I reached David Brown’s Motorsports. I was assisted immediately and the light was adhered to the bike with flawless expertise. ECAlightsThe young man who fixed the light, didn’t want payment. I had to nearly force him to take a tip for this help. That kind of service always surprises me—and it’s often a rare experience. I appreciate the kindness shown me at David Brown’s.

Then, there was my visit to “San Diego BMW Motorcycles: Your Gateway to Adventure.”  I desired a simple check up before heading home, and I expected to pay a minimum of $100 for the peace of mind. After the check up, Brent Rackstein, the Service Manager, gave me his “A-Okay” on the bike. He waved off charging me and sent me on my way. I was more than a little surprised—it took time to go over the bike. Such thoughtfulness is always greatly appreciated, especially when you’re far from home and you’ve been on the road for weeks.   selfiebk

From the moment I walked in I felt welcomed; I felt understood; and, I witnessed how San Diego BMW Motorcycles truly lives up to its “Gateway to Adventure” tagline. I think I said it in another blog entry, but it bears repeating: If I lived anywhere in southern California, San Diego BMW Motorcycles would be my go-to shop for service and accessories—loved their selection of motorcycle wear. Oh, how I wish the BMW service shop nearest me had such interest in customer service. To get service similar to San Diego, I must travel 100 miles beyond Chicago to Milwaukee—it’s worth it. So, THANK YOU San Diego BMW Motorcycles for helping to make my “adventure” worry-free. DSC00205e


On the kindness of friends...

Japanese American National Museum…

Strange things said to me on the road…

Stopping in a Sundown Town…

World War II & the Eisenhower Library and Museum…

Wednesday, September 2

Clutch hand...feels like it was beaten with a rubber mallet.


Tuesday's  ride had highs and lows in equal amounts. It was a great bag day. Every thing stayed exactly in place. DSC00243 The ride east from Fruita, Co could not have been more pleasant. The temps started in the low 80s and remained there for some time. In the end, the temperatures ranged from 58 degrees F, to 100. The ride through different terrains kept the temps fluctuating and interesting. For riding, the temp changes proved both comfortable and downright miserable. DSC00244blur

Riding in fifty-eight degrees F through the mountains is cold, not chilly, downright cold! It is especially cold when gusty winds blast the chilly air at you and around you. My mesh jacked wasn't made for warmth and it lived up to its "cool" design. Highest elevation encountered topped 11,000 feet (near Shrine Pass, for example). The higher we climbed, the colder the air. At times, a huge dark cloud would covered the ground. Riding under these caused a temporary drop in temperature too. These hovering clouds also made for nice contrast with the sun shimmering on the mountains White River National Forest area—freezing—but offers lots of beautiful vistas. More breath-taking views—it almost took my mind off how cold I was. Eventually, I took advantage of a rest area/overlook and changed to a warmer jacket. That, and turning on my handlebar heater, allowed me to relax and enjoy the rest of the way. DSC00248

This is ski country and the area is filled with quirky shops, rentals, camping and mountain roads! Aspen, Vail, Cooper Mountain, Loveland Pass, wilderness areas—whatever your passion, it's here. Riding through canyons, tunnels, following the Colorado river, and attacking squigglies, make I-70 endlessly entertaining and spirited. The Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel, the former heads west, the later heads east, was a tad slow due to some department of transportation activity in the tunnel. Still, all the tunnels rides were fun. Lots of nice overlooks and rest areas along I-70.

DSC00253I think it was somewhere around Georgetown that things turned ugly. A backup lasted forever, or so it seemed. We inched along for miles. My clutch hand was screaming. It was a challenge to stop on slanted, uneven ground. Eventually, we came upon the detritus of an accident around a bend. Police and transportation workers were busy clearing the path.

More ugliness came when I reached Denver. Chicago has some pretty intense traffic. But in Denver, the traffic around 4:20ish, was insane! Every eastbound and westbound lane was grid locked. All exits were backed up. Where I-70 and I-25 forked, the halted cars looked like a still photograph. That back up was not moving! My left hand pain returned with a vengeance. The repeated pulling and easing out the clutch for many miles left me with a throbbing palm. I had removed the stock levers because they are impossible for me to use. These Wunderlich's are a life saver but today even these babies could not save my left hand.

I called it quits in Denver. My goal was to get past Denver, like another 200ish miles out. Alas, I was beaten by traffic, and a left hand that felt as if it had been pounded repeatedly with a rubber mallet. Downtown Denver hotel prices are the highest I've encountered on the trip. Ouch! DSC00256

Tuesday, September 1

Riding diversity...Monday had it all!

Hello family and friends,
Left Mesquite, NV on Monday. Made it to Colorado around 8:30pm. The day was long but fun, filled with varied weather (temps ranged from 59 degrees F to 100 degrees F) and engaging terrain.  DSC00189There was also lightening, thundering and rain! Where does one go when it is lightening and the nearest place "with services" is 35 miles away?! No shelter anywhere along the long, sometimes isolated  stretches of I-15. Watching the lightening was quite interesting but a tad cheek clinching--if you know what I mean.DSC00191
Even with all the weather variety, it was a beautiful day for riding.  First time the rain gear has been used on this trip.  I haven't figured out all the mileage but it was well over 500 miles. I love I-70! It has to be the prettiest, most amazing interstate! I don't know much about its construction, but it's now on my list for further research. I have taken I-70 from IL to Colorado before but picking it up from I-15 and riding it east...loved every minute of it! It is scenic, crooked, and in many places, lightly traveled. My biggest challenge was keeping my eyes on the road. DSC00206 Bluffs, canyons, color changes in rocks and landscape were breathtakingly distracting. I am absolutely smitten with Nevada and Utah! To my riding hero, RH, ...I take back everything I said about riding in the US versus Canada.DSC00205
Took a few detours, lots of up and down roads, many long sweeping curves and twisties.  Loved the overlooks and many pull outs along I-70. If you travel this way, don't miss these as they provide a nice reason to get out of the saddle and some safe areas for shutter bugging. I really enjoyed the Virgin River and Green River areas. But my most favorite (although everything was a fave) area, which I almost bypassed because it was getting late, was the  ride near Moab.  This ride made me dizzy with its bodacious beauty!
DSC00207 This detour takes you around Arches Nation Park.  I left I-70 at Crescent Jct. and headed south on 191. After about 30ish miles, catch 128, which heads east.  You will be riding along the Colorado River. You stay on 128 until it meets up with I-70 again. I think this ended up being about 60 plus miles altogether but it was worth the detour. DSC00225
In this brief update, I can't express the sheer beauty, the overwhelming sensory experience of riding along this, sometimes tight, twisty road.  This "Scenic Bypass" was the highlight of the day!  When I finally returned to I-70, the sun was setting and the sky was quickly turning dark. A sign said that Grand Junction, CO was approximately 47 miles ahead. DSC00213
The road was lightly traveled. It felt a bit spooky. I imagined mountain lions and bears in wait around each curve for a lone 'cyclist.  I kept my speed eight miles over the limit.  In the far distance, I saw red lights and kept it in my view until I touched wheels in Colorado. I was checked in and fed by 9:30ish.DSC00238
Onward and upward!